Summer’s officially over. It felt more extreme to us this year with heatwaves and wildfires in some parts of the planet and epic floods in others. As climate change packed a visceral punch, what’s normally the most relaxed period of the year felt somewhat less so. On the bright side, however, it’s made us look forward to fall/autumn more.
To thrive in the new season, i.e. to feel at your best most of the time, consider making these relatively easy, Ayurveda-prescribed seasonal switches.
But first, are you convinced you need to?
If not, consider the studies that prove the effects of seasonal weather changes on health. In her book titled Absolute Beauty, Ayurveda expert Pratima Raichur refers to a University of Delaware study of local hospital records that found hospital admissions of asthma sufferers doubled, from about four hundred in early September to more than eight hundred in early October, peaked again in the spring, and declined in summer.
Ayurveda would predict as much. September marks the shift from summer to fall, when an increase in the air and space element, Vata, aggravates asthma conditions due to wind-borne allergens. The natural increase of congestion in the spring, when the water and earth element Kapha is highest, tends to bring on the more severe variety of bronchial asthma.
Fall starts off feeling cool and dry, before becoming colder and wetter. To achieve balance and harmony, Ayurveda recommends combating the dry, crisp coolness with its opposite – oiliness and warmth. Moreover, it advises grounding yourself in a healthy, stable routine to counter the erratic windiness of this changeover season. These two basic tenets underlie the following 7 Ayurvedic rituals for an amazing autumn
1. PUT OIL UP YOUR NOSE – aka ‘Nasya’
Sounds bizarre we know, but according to Sebastien Pole, Ayurvedic guru and author of Discovering the True You with Ayurveda, nasal oiling is the “ultimate Ayurvedic start to the day” and is ideal for protecting and healing nasal membranes against the cool, dryness of autumn.
Nasya oil is a medicated nasal oil typically made from sesame oil and blended with decongesting and mind-awakening herbs like Eucalyptus, Vacha (calamus) and Brahmi (Centella asiatica). The oil lubricates the nasal cavities and sinuses, which tend to feel dry and sensitive when it’s cold and windy.
2. SWISH OIL AROUND YOUR MOUTH – aka ‘Oil Pulling’
An effective detoxing ritual, oil pulling is also known to help with dry mouth and chapped lips.
Swish a tablespoon of cold-pressed sesame oil in your mouth when you wake up, before brushing your teeth and on an empty stomach.The oil pulls all of the oil-soluble bacterial microbes out of your mouth.
Sesame oil is an antifungal that’s been found to reduce the microbes that cause bad breath as much as Chlorhexidine, the poisonous chemical in your mouthwash, does according to the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research 2014.
It also helps reduce plaque and gingivitis, in addition to dry mouth symptoms. Regular oil swishers report impeccable dental hygiene – white, glossy teeth, pink, healthy gums – and less of that fuzzy morning fog.
3. OIL YOUR SCALP AND HAIR BEFORE YOU SHAMPOO
Does hair fall more in the fall?
According to a study on the Seasonality of hair shedding conducted by the Department of Dermatology at the University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland, we have the highest number of hairs in the telogen (resting) phase in July and a second smaller peak in April. As hairs in the telogen phase generally fall out a 100 days later, people typically see shedding at the end of summer (August) and into the fall (September and October). These hairs aren’t lost forever as a healthy hair follicle will eventually cycle back into its growth phase.
Improving blood circulation to your hair follicle has been shown to nurture it back to growth faster and to make it grow back thicker. After all, that’s the principle behind the efficacy of Minoxidil, the prescription hair loss drug that was initially discovered as a pharmaceutical drug for heart patients. Minoxidil causes vasodilation and increased blood flow, which promotes faster and thicker hair
The all-natural Ayurvedic alternative is a pre-shampoo hair and scalp massage using a cold-pressed vegetable or seed oil and one that preferably also contains key Ayurvedic hair herbs – Holy Basil, Amla, Bhringraj, Brahmi and Vetiver.
A scalp massage improves blood circulation, which brings nutrients to the scalp and nourishes the hair from its roots.
For the hair shaft, applying a little oil at least a half-hour (preferably overnight) before you shampoo your hair allows the oil to soak into your hair shaft and seal its fragile inner layer, helping it withstand both the stripping effects of the surfactants in your shampoo and the drying effects of a cold and windy autumn.
4. OIL YOUR BODY BEFORE YOU SHOWER
As the cold sets in, your showers are likely to get hotter and longer and make your skin dry and flaky. Skin’s natural oils or lipids get washed away easily in hot showers and once those are gone, water evaporates more quickly drying skin out.
Ayurveda recommends an oil self-massage before you take a shower. This may seem overwhelming but takes all of five minutes to actually do. A deeply nourishing oil such as sweet almond or a warming one like sesame, massaged into the skin in long upward strokes goes a long way in keeping skin supple and smooth through autumn and into winter. This is best done on a towel or bath mat to ensure you don’t slip.
5. EAT WARM
Fall is the season Ayurveda recommends indulging in foods that are rich in proteins and healthy fats, cooked with stimulating spices and served hot.
In her book titled East by West, Ayurveda food guru Jasmine Hemsley advises balancing the cold, light dryness of autumn with nourishing soups and stews made with plenty of healthy fats and root vegetables to help nourish, hydrate and ground.
Below are three of Jasmine’s recipes that we think are perfect for the fall.
- Slow cooker five-spice chicken congee
- Kitchari (lentils)
- Chestnut Crepes with Vanilla Chai Plum Compote
We also love her golden milk recipe which makes for the perfect way to end a cold, blistery day.
6. AMP UP WITH ADAPTOGENS
Work’s going to pick up pace in September and stress levels are probably going to soar until we hit the holidays. And the cold and flu season will be upon us too. Strengthening your immune system with multi vitamins and herbal supplements at this time of year makes perfect sense.
And according to Ayurveda, the two best herbs for autumn are Haritaki (Terminalia Chebula) and Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera).
Haritaki, known as the “king of medicines” in Tibet, is a Vata-balancing herb with amazing benefits for the gut and is also a great source of vitamin C and minerals such as selenium, potassium, manganese, iron and copper, as well as antioxidants.
Ashwagandha, another Vata-pacifier, is a natural stress-buster and energy booster. Its myriad benefits have been scientifically studied and this amazingly versatile herb is worth looking into.
7. STICK WITH A SCHEDULE
This one’s more about routine than ritual, but getting into a fall routine is among the best ways to cope with the transitional, erratic energy of nature’s changeover season. Ayurveda’s energy elements for Autumn, air and space, and make us prone to feeling restless and anxious. Establishing a regular schedule of sleeping, preferably no later than 10pm, exercising and eating will help ground you and provide a necessary sense of stability.
We hope you have a wonderful fall!
This article was written to provide information only about Ayurveda. It should not be used in any way in treatment or prevention of disease and we would recommend your consult with a doctor before radical changes in diet or for any serious or ongoing health concerns